Chung Ju-yung or Jung Joo-young (November 25, 1915 – March 21, 2001), was a South Korean entrepreneur, businessman and the founder of Hyundai Groups of South Korea. Raised as the eldest son of a poor Korean farmer, he became the richest man in South Korea. Growing Hyundai Heavy Industries to be the largest ship builder in the world, as well as growing Hyundai Motor Group into the largest automobile manufacturer in Korea, and the third largest in the world.
As one of the most recognized and admired business men in Korean history, Chung's identity still pervades modern Korean society and industry. Business-related events emphasizing creativity and innovation have been named after him. Much of the current success of Hyundai is widely attributed to Chung's insight and resolution, ideals that the contemporary Hyundai leadership vow to keep.
Chung explained his success in his statement: "Our people succeeded because they devoted their enterprising spirits. They used the forces of other mind. Conviction... creates indomitable efforts. This is the key to (true) miracles... Man's potential is limitless.
Chung Ju-yung was born in Kangwon Province (North Korea) when Korea was under Japanese rule. Born to a large impoverished family of peasants, he was the eldest of seven children. As a young boy, Chung dreamed of becoming a school teacher, but his hopes were cut short because the restrictive environment at the time kept the family stuck in poverty, effectively keeping Chung away from higher educational opportunities. Despite the setbacks, Chung was able to attend a local Confucian school run by his grandfather whenever his time was not taken up by tasks on the family farm.
Chung’s talent for business became apparent during his trips into town where he would sell wood. The fast-paced atmosphere of the town along with the articles in newspapers he read sparked his imagination and he soon grew tired of the poverty that he and his family had to endure.
Chung makes several escape attempt to travel to the city for work in hopes of escaping the harsh realities of farm life. But all to no avail of succeeding in his chosen endeavors.
However all of those journeys he embarked on made him realize his passion for civil engineering and gave him a sense of accomplishment.
Creation of Hyundai
After considering the reality of restrictions imposed on Koreans in certain industries by the Japanese colonial government, Chung decided to enter the automobile repair business. Using a service garage he purchased from a friend, Chung started the A-do Service Garage on a 3,000 won loan. Within three years, the number of employees grew from 20 to 70 and Chung was able to earn a good income. In 1943, the Japanese Occupational Government forced the garage to merge with a steel plant as part of the war effort. Although his businesses were shut down due to suppression by the Japanese, Chung returned to Asan with 50,000 won in savings to try to make the best of the situation.
In 1946, after the liberation of Korea from Japanese control, Chung started Hyundai and Hyundai Civil Industries in anticipation of the post-war reconstruction and industrialization. Chung won major government contracts and became responsible for building much of South Korea's transportation infrastructure, including the Soyang Dam in 1967, the Gyeongbu Expressway in 1970, the world's largest shipyard in Ulsan, the Kori Nuclear Power Plant among others. Chung also won contracts from the American military to build facilities for their personnel as his younger brother could speak English and was on good terms with the U.S. Army engineers.
Chung continued to build onto the company by gathering any kind of work he could get from the U.N. forces and the Korean Ministry of Transportation. Once Seoul was retaken by U.N. forces, Chung reestablished the company and continued to gather more work from the Americans.
From then on, Chung continued to grow and diversify the company into one of South Korea's major chaebol (conglomerate). With no experience in shipbuilding, he created the Ulsan shipyard, the largest shipyard in the world. The first vessel was completed in three years (rather than the expected five) as Chung had the shipyard and vessel built simultaneously. He introduced the Hyundai Pony in 1975 and the Hyundai Excel in 1986 using European expertise.
From the 1980s until recently, the Hyundai Group was split into many satellite groups. Chung had a very successful career. In Seosan, he carried out a successful reclamation project, using a decommissioned oil tanker as a cofferdam.
In 1998, he herded 1,001 cows through the DMZ to North Korea, which he claimed was a repayment 1,000 times over for a cow he took to afford his ticket when he escaped his father's farm. He was the first to propose the Geumgangsan sightseeing excursions. He founded the Hyundai Heavy Steel Company which developed a non-dock ship-making method.
Chung's philanthropy distinguished him from the other businessmen of his generation. In 1977, he founded the Asan Foundation with a scope of activities comparable to those of the Ford or Rockefeller Foundations. The Foundation was organized into four major areas of service: medical support, social welfare, research and development, and a scholarship fund. Through its efforts, the Foundation established nine hospitals throughout South Korea, built Ulsan Medical College, and funded the Asan Life Sciences Research Institute. The Foundation also initiated cooperative arrangements between industry and academic institutions by supporting such academic research as the Sinyoung Research Fund.
In 1982, Chung received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
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